Death to the punch line. That most basic staple of potent hip hop music – the heady mix of breezy wordplay and intelligent stream of thought, terminating with perfect poetic timing – has been officially declared endangered species.
The exact defining moment? Sometime in 2015, the year that witnessed the massive acceptance and chart domination of the song, Local Rappers, the second single off rapper, Reminisce’s third studio album, Baba Hafusa. The slow but steady rise of indigenous rap into mainstream consciousness hit troubled waters momentarily with the untimely death of its most celebrated champ, Da Grin. Years after his tragic passing, Olamide, Phyno and Reminisce, dudes who rap primarily in their local dialects are the new kings of rap music. This trio heralded their rise with the release of Local Rappers, a 5-minute tongue in cheek affirmation of their newfound status and a declaration of the end of the somewhat unprofitable punch line. With this newfound distaste for one of hip hop’s primary elements, rap aficionados feared especially for Reminisce, the most underrated of the trio, as he was yet to equal the true mainstream acceptance that took Olamide four back to back studio albums, and Phyno, just one solo record to achieve.
Would this new but polarising position hurt Baba Hafusa, Reminisce’s hotly anticipated third merry-go-round? This was after all, the record that’s expected to consolidate on the solid performances of his two previous efforts, 2012’s undervalued Book of Rap Stories and its follow up, 2013’s Alaga Ibile.
The striking cover art for Baba Hafusa features the rapper, clad in a traditional outfit, menacing as usual, but clutching a teddy bear on one arm and an infant carrier on the other, both, presumably belonging to his daughter, Hafusa. This powerful imagery hinted of a more mature, reflective Reminisce taking on the challenges of family and fatherhood, and eager to document his experiences.
The bright side of the entire affair? Punch lines ain’t dead. Not quite. And they’ll definitely live to fight another day.